To advance unlicensed drivers from a learner permit to a valid driver’s license, Washington D.C. uses what’s called the “GRAD” (Gradual Rearing of Adult Drivers) system.
At age 16, D.C. teens can apply for a learner permit. The application process requires:
A learner permit holder can drive only under the supervision of a licensed adult who’s at least 21 years old. Operation is limited to between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.
Drivers who are enrolled in a driver’s education course don’t need a learner permit to operate a dual-control vehicle while supervised by a certified instructor.
At 16 and a half years old, permit holders can apply for a provisional permit. The applicant must have held a learner permit for at least six months without committing a traffic infraction that could result in demerit points. The application must include parental consent and a certification that the applicant has completed 40 hours of operation supervised by a licensed driver who’s at least 21 years old. The applicant will then be eligible to take the behind-the-wheel exam.
The provisional license allows the holder to drive but not to transport passengers. Siblings and a supervising adult are exceptions to the passenger ban.
All drivers under 18 years old, including provisional license holders, are subject to a driving curfew.
September through June. Sunday through Thursday, teen drivers can’t drive from 11:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. On Saturdays and Sundays, teen drivers can’t drive from 12:01 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.
July and August. On any day of the week in July and August, teen drivers are prohibited from driving from 12:01 a.m. to 6:00 a.m.
Any curfew violation will result in a 30-day suspension. For a second violation, the teen driver will be looking at a 60-day suspension, and a third or subsequent violation carries a 90-day suspension.
Minor drivers are also prohibited from using any electronic device while driving, including hands-free cellphones.
After holding the provisional permit for six months and going 12 months without a demerit point violation, a teen can apply for a full license. The applicant must submit a signed form indicating ten hours of nighttime driving supervised by a licensed adult who’s at least 21 years old.
Even with a full license, teen drivers are subject to restrictions until they turn 18 years old. No minor driver can have more than two passengers younger than 21 years old (excluding siblings).
All D.C. vehicles must be insured to be registered. Minimum insurance requirements include:
Driving without insurance carries a $500 fine and up to a 30-day license suspension. For a subsequent offense, the driver is looking at a $750 fine and a license suspension of up to 60 days.
All insurance cancellations are reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The DMV will issue a 30-day warning to show proof of insurance. Failure to provide proof of insurance will result in registration revocation and a $150 fine. The DMV will also issue a $7 fine for each additional day without insurance, up to $2,500.